When Viswanathan Anand introduced Vidit Gujrathi as India’s best bet for a medal at the World Junior Chess Championships, the youngster hesitated before standing up to acknowledge the gathered crowd.
The 19-year-old sported a shy smile, held broadly across the face he rarely kept up. His demeanour suggested an air of sheepishness. But in reality, he asserts that the comment came at the right time. “Previously I would have become very nervous by a compliment like that. Now I see it as a positive and enjoy it. I’m very glad to hear this from Vishy Anand,” he says.
The simple comment by the former world champion has lifted both the morale and confidence of the Nashik-boy. Not that the teenager needed the boost. He recently returned to the country after a successful sojourn in Armenia.
The 16th Lake Sevan International Chess Tournament saw the 2013 Junior World Championship bronze medallist outplay his adversaries in the 10-player league-based tournament. Gujrathi won the competition with six points, winning his games against top seeded Ukrainian Alexander Areshchenko, and Armenian pair Zaven Andriasian and Hovahannes Gabuzyan in the process. “The other six draws were quite hard actually. Almost all those games lasted at least five hours,” he says. The cash prize and medal will serve as mementoes for the win, but more importantly, the level of competition he played against serves as the main source of inspiration, not to mention the record he set by becoming the first non-Armenian to win it. “This was the strongest tournament I have every played in, and winning it makes things even more special,” he mentions.
With the injection of confidence, Gujrathi now begins preparing for October’s junior world championship in Pune. The experience of playing in last year’s edition in Turkey will be handy. Consistency, he knows, will be the key. “I had a decent start and a good finish. But I had slowed down in the middle and so had to catch up. I just about managed to pull up in time, but it could have been better if I kept the momentum,” he recalls. Since then, he has dedicated a fair degree of focus on positioning of the pieces, particularly at the openings.
Stress has also been laid on making his aggressive moves. The four-time Asian Champion has been working with his Kazakh coach, Grand Master Evgeny Vladimirov – since 2011 – to rectify the shortcomings recognised during last year’s event. The results have been encouraging so far, Gujrathi says. “I managed to win four of the five tournaments this year, so I can’t complain.”
High on confidence after the win in Armenia, the country’s 30th Grand Master will compete in Abu Dhabi International Chess Festival, which begins on Wednesday, before setting his sights on Pune again.